60-Years of Glorious TV Adverts

So, today marks the 60th anniversary of commercial TV's grand entrance into the living rooms of the British public, with ITV lighting the touch paper and beguiling audiences with a short TV advert for SR Toothpaste all the way back in the halcyon days of 1955.
Whilst much has changed in the subsequent six decades, the influence TV advertising has on our lives continues unabated. TV ads can remodel cultures, personal world-views and markets. They instigate conversation - both online and offline - and incite an emotional response like no other medium, whether positive or negative. To this day, TV advertising's impact as a marketing tool remains uncontested. So, let's celebrate a big milestone by providing you with a rundown of Guerillascope's favourite TV advertising campaigns from across the ages!


R. Whites Lemonade – 1973



Need we say any more about R. Whites’ magnum opus from 1973 than simply, 'listen'. At least one member of the team has requested the TV ad's iconic soundtrack as their entrance theme for all situations, without harbouring any particular enthusiasm for lemonade. The true mark of a classic commercial.



Reebok, Belly’s Gonna Get You! – 2000



Slightly out of shape? Are gentle jogs to get through the door somebody’s been holding open for far too long starting to hurt? Well, as a motivational piece, Reebok’s ‘Belly’s Gonna Get You’ will have you sprinting for your life across the local common at the first hint of sunlight. With a soundtrack that acts as a Brillo pad to the senses and a bloated, blotchy, generally disgusting belly bouncing at high speed after our poor protagonist, this classic exercise in how to induce shock and awe simultaneously is the stuff of nightmares – which is exactly what we suspect Reebok was trying to achieve. Well played… well played indeed.



Smash, Martians – 1974



Us stupid earthlings; peeling and boiling potatoes; wasting all of that vital energy that could otherwise be used to grow larger brains. That’s why the Martians invented Smash – they’re simply more intelligent than us. Voted Britain’s favourite pre-internet TV ad, Cadburys made Smash into an acceptable source of sustenance for years on the back of this TV commercial – quite the feat, and quite the practical joke. Why did we fall for it? Because to this day, the ad still resonates on an emotional level with television viewers; we can still identify with the characters and still warm to them instantly... Despite them being, like, aliens.



Guinness, The Surfer – 1998



The tension. The intrigue. The awe. All are key aspects of the TV viewing experience upon seeing Guinness’ ‘The Surfer’ for the first time. The build-up is iconic; the protagonist looking out towards an unseen yet tremendous challenge/foe/arggghhh-what-is-it?? The pulsating soundtrack ramps up the tension, creating a cinematic event within the span of a 1 minute 40 seconds TV advertisement. When we finally find out what’s approaching, the angst is replaced by sheer action; a huge, crashing wave carrying an armada of white horses hurtles toward the protagonist and takes him on an unparalleled thrill ride. As others fall under its weight and ferocity, our friend continues undeterred, staring into the face of his biggest challenge and beating it. Good things come to those who wait, so says Guinness, and we couldn’t agree more.



Colgate Blue Minty Gel, ‘Madness Parody’ – 1983



How do you make the childhood chore of brushing one’s teeth a fun proposition for those pesky kids? Fear not, for back in 1983 Colgate provided the secret weapon every parent needs – a Madness parody that advertises toothpaste. Featuring a band of young kids wearing suitable baggy attire, the blue minty gel is positioned to look like the most exciting product ever, with choreographed dance routines, big wide smiles and young cheeky-chappy accents unleashing an infectious desire to brush your teeth. That, dear reader, is tantamount to witchcraft, though utilising one of the era's most defining songs certainly helps.



iPad What Will Your Verse Be? – 2014



A TV advertisement given added poignancy by the fact that Robin William’s narration was one of his last acts before the comedy legend’s untimely death, Apple’s 2014 TV advertising campaign in support of the iPad Air leaves a funny feeling in the throat akin to the sensation that greets you after watching a particularly special film. Like the very best feature lengths, this TV advertising campaign is both cinematic and poetic, inspiring TV viewers whilst also positioning the brand’s product as a key tool in achieving something life-affirming. And with dialogue from William’s ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ acting as the copy, Apple also has one of Hollywood’s most era-defining scripts to knot the heart-strings.



Hamlet Cigars, Photobooth – 1987



Voted the third funniest TV ad of all time by Brand Republic, Hamlet Cigar’s legendary TV campaign from 1987 also happens to be a favourite of Guerillascope’s. Gregor Fisher struggles to get his atrociously comb-overed profile into shot during this side-splitting 30-seconds, with Bach’s ‘Air on a G-String’ providing the paradoxical hint of sophistication that makes this TV ad the classic that it is. Giving up entirely, Fisher opts instead to light a Hamlet cigar; a single plume of smoke accompanying the enduring tagline of ‘Happiness is a Hamlet Cigar’. That it transcends generations is a testament to its quality.



The T-Mobile, Welcome Back – 2010



The ultimate feel-good TV ad? T-Mobile’s gloriously heart-warming campaign from 2010 feeds off genuine, unsuspecting human emotions to create a campaign that warms the soul and makes us laugh in spades. Perhaps the best example of the ‘flash mob’ craze being integrated into a brand’s marketing material, the ‘Welcome Back’ TV campaign brought T-Mobile its second successive BAAA award for Best TV ad, whilst also giving new arrivals at Heathrow T5 a welcome home they’ll never forget.



Hovis, 122 Years of History - 2009



Great TV advertising campaigns tell a story; they take us on a journey through different times, ideas and emotions, removing us from the humdrum even if only for a few seconds. Hovis took it to another level, guiding us through 90-seconds of British history with a nostalgia and patriotism only the coldest of hearts could spurn. Placing itself centrally within every scene, Hovis reinforces its status as a British institution, and in the process leaves us with a memorable, stirring tribute to our ancestry.